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Parliamentary challenge of 1080

As the Department of Conservation (DOC) prepares for a concentrated 1080 drop in the second half of the year, a new political party is rising to fight it.

Seed fall, possum and rodent levels are being monitored at specific national sites and, if a threshold is met, wide scale predator control will be actioned in DOC’s Battle for our Birds.

Just months out from the national election, a Ban 1080 party was formed last month.

Leader Bill Wallace said the party had more than 1000 registered members and was confident in gaining traction, considering DOC’s own statistic that 43 percent of New Zealanders are against the use of 1080.

“If we were to get one in 10 of those, we’re very close to having parliamentarians.”

In his backyard of Golden Bay and Abel Tasman National Park, an assessment of environmental effects from 1080 came back and
showed that no baseline survey had ever been done, Mr Wallace said.

“If there was some indication of where the birds were and that this was part of a rational plan, it would be possible to support it,” he said. “There is no site-specific information, it’s just insane.”

“Because I’ve been a helicopter pilot and flown DOC guys In and out for the last 15 years, the Tasman wilderness area is what I’m familiar with. But I know that the Fiordland area is of interest.”

Fiordland was a critical area for the issue of 1080 drops, among conservationists and hunters, and the party focus on the Tasman area was only a matter of man power, Mr Wallace said.

“If I had volunteers to put up signs, spread leaflets, even stand as a candidate,” he said. “If we get interest in Fiordland, these people have only got to hit the contact button on the website.”

DOC conservation services biodiversity manager Lindsay Wilson said in Fiordland National Park the area that would be covered by potential drops was 157,000 hectares.

“As well as that there’s a 2km buffer pod around the control zone, which makes the entire area 200,000 hectares,” Mr Wilson said.

The area would remain open, but subject to an advisory recommendation against recovering meat for a minimum of four months.

“Helicopter operators – it will be closed to those guys,” he said. “There’s close to a million hectares they still can operate in.”

“It’s got the potential to impact on their business, but we’re looking at ways to try and minimise it by starting as early as we can.”

A poison operation at Waitutu to protect mistletoe was confirmed, but drops at all other sites would be determined in response to beech mast, Mr Wilson said.

Deerstalkers Association president Tim McCarthy said most hunters did it for meat, not trophies, and would be undeniably affected by the drop.

“Believe me, we’re not over the moon about this huge drop that’s going on, but we do understand that there is likely to be a problem with the beech mast,” he said.

“I personally have seen the amount of rats and mice in the bush that follows a seeding like it. The thing is we need to find an alternative that doesn’t take out the bird life that you’re trying to preserve.”

Bait stations and trap lines in protected areas like the Murchison Mountains were testament to the fact that there were alternatives, Mr McCarthy said.

“They get it down to cost efficiency, so that means they’re looking for the cheapest alternative to get what they want done, and that tells me that that’s the price they’re putting on native wildlife.”

The Deerstalkers Association would continue to work with DOC to make sure that it’s a win-win situation, Mr McCarthy said.

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